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Queiroz: Ivory Coast clash is key

Whether or not Group G at the World Cup constitutes a genuine Group of Death, Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz believes the match against the Ivory Coast could be decisive in sorting out who qualifies - assuming, that is, Brazil goes through untroubled.

• World Cup draw
• Complete World Cup fixture list
• World Cup draw: Soccernet says

Franz Beckenbauer has already gone on record as saying that the current Brazilian vintage is not a patch on many of its predecessors and the group is arguably the toughest along with, perhaps, that of host nation South Africa.

Portugal will kick off their campaign on June 15 against Didier Drogba's Ivory Coast and Queiroz says that first match could be all important. "The group reflects the great and universal dimension of football With Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America represented," said the former Manchester United number two.

"There are clearly three teams for two places. The line-up shows this. Portugal starts against the Ivory Coast and in such a close test there is no room for error. It may be the key game. The first match will be decisive. We have a good chance of beating the Ivory Coast, now we have to prepare ourselves well."

Portugal take on outsiders North Korea on June 21 before a mouthwatering tie against colonial foes Brazil four days later. Queiroz knows it could all come down to that final clash with the five-time world champions. "If that is the case it would be good, but it is too early to think about it.''

Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo admitted it was a "tough" group. "To play against Brazil, Ivory Coast and (North) Korea will be very difficult," he said. "I am happy as well because I am going to play against my team-mates, friends, so in this way is good but in football terms it will be tough," he said.

"For me, Brazil are the strongest and Ivory Coast will also be tough and the Koreans run a lot. Well, I think it is going to be a very difficult group."

Brazil coach Carlos Dunga, who earlier confirmed he'll be leaving his post after the World Cup, said: "The toughest match is going to be the first one (v North Korea) and then the second one (v Ivory Coast) and then the third one (v Portugal). That is the way we think."

"We know how good Portugal are. It will be interesting to see the rivalry between Kaka and (Cristiano) Ronaldo. Both are players in the same club, Real Madrid, and both are constantly competing for individual awards."

Midfielder Kaka added: "I think we are in the most difficult group. There are other tough groups but this one for Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea is the group of death. For Brazil, this World Cup will be like a recovery because we did not leave a good image in 2006 (World Cup in Germany)."

Ivory Coast Vahid Halilhodzic signalled his intention to ruffle a few feathers in Group G. He said: "It's the toughest draw. They (Portugal and Brazil) are the favourites but we will prepare to create an upset. We're not coming to South Africa for holidays. We will be here with great ambition. If we can go past this first round group, Ivory Coast will go very far in this World Cup."


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